Browsed by
Author: Alex

What Not To Worry About #26

What Not To Worry About #26

Hello friends. How about this weather we’re having here on the emerald isle? It’s been such a treat to get a little sun-kissed on my lunch break and to feel my skin tingling as I retreat back inside. My favourite part has to be cooking with the backdoor open and allowing the warm air to fill the house with scents of summer. What’s not been so great though is the constant sneezing and eye-streaming that’s been gracing my face the last few weeks (making make-up absolutely pointless) and has turned me in to a sniffling wreck. All worth it though for a few moments of heat!

 

Last weekend was probably one of the best I’ve had all year as Andrew and I weaved our way across London celebrating his birthday. I booked the trip as his birthday present and even managed to keep it a secret until a few days before (a huge achievement for me!). We had 4 days to explore the big smoke which wreaked havoc with our feet and I definitely sweated from every pore of my body but we immersed ourselves in the city life, soaking in as much as we could.

 

a33f0f5a-c5dc-4d09-9971-7201f09c437c.jpg

 

It was a trip I think we both needed and we have come back home feeling more energised and motivated than we have been in the last month or two. It’s funny how only a few days away from the daily grind of work, chores and routine can wake us from a slumber we don’t fully realise we are in. Our relationships can be the silent victims in this gentle descent; we forget to really talk to each other, immersing ourselves in computer and phone screens in an attempt to destress.

 

This weekend we didn’t look at screens for most of the day (except to take photos of course, always have time for that) and instead we got lost in new streets, discovering parts of the city we had never been to while eating as much good food as we could manage. We had conversations that didn’t revolve around work or family but allowed our words to meander between random topics as we hopped from tube to tube. It was a wonderful few days and I won’t leave it too long until we get lost again.

 

d2eee8e7-a847-4e69-8134-4d4281c02de5.jpg

 

And here are a few worries I will be letting go of this week…

 

Always having to be the leader

I have realised over the last few years that I have this incessant need to be the leader on a holiday. I love to plan the itinerary, research the best places to eat and take control of the map when trying to find our bearings. I’ve slowly learned to relinquish this control but I have this weird joy for planning the BEST. TRIP. EVER and surely this isn’t the worse thing?

Having to wear a bra

Summertime is not a good season for under garments especially when you get those beautiful under-boob sweat patches that just scream summer chic. There truly is no better feeling than taking off your bra as soon as you come home and flinging it in the corner – let those ta-ta’s free!!

Being terrible at replying to messages

Apologies to all those who have ever messaged me. I do intend on replying but I have a mind like a sieve and also I am just crap at replying.

Finishing a TV series

I always get so sad when finishing a TV series and my most recent mourning is for The Handmaid’s Tale. Hole Moses if you haven’t seen it you have to!

Being a nag

Really trying not to nag Andrew when he decides to stay up late, sleep in or refuse to organise his clothes. I am not his mother. Repeat: I am not his mother.

 

And that’s it for this week. Enjoy these sunny days folks!!

 

Local Favourites: Glaslough

Local Favourites: Glaslough

A village that boasts a castle, cottage-lined streets and ivy-clad walls is always guaranteed to win me over but the village of Glaslough in Co. Monaghan is nothing short of just plain lovely. It’s a place I’ve been coming to since I was a child but the beauty of the village still manages to surprise me every time I visit. It’s without doubt my favourite village in Ireland and so had to be included in my Local Favourites.

 

183021c5-0d92-4c8c-8e9e-ad537e4367d7.jpg

 

The village hugs the edge of the Castle Leslie estate which has belonged to the Leslie family since it was built in the late 19th century. Although it is more like a manor house, the castle is a Victorian vision set against the backdrop of the lake the village is named after. The castle is a very popular luxury wedding destination (Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills married here) and so it’s quite difficult to get a room on the weekends. Instead, my sister and I stayed in the ‘hunting lodge’ by the castle gates which are just as impressive and a little more convenient.

 

31fa8552-2512-48db-b55a-cfdb85666149.jpg

 

afcccfce-ffb7-45e1-a354-1ee8f7f523d5.jpg

 

The lodge has two restaurants, a spa and the stables that can be accessed via the basement. This makes staying here a little more appealing since we were able to just walk to the spa in our dressing gowns after our breakfast (AKA the best morning ever). The rooms we stayed in were stunning and were full of character just like the building’s exterior; all dark wood and heavy curtains. Double doors then opened up to a bathroom with a walk-in shower and a free-standing bath that I fell in love with immediately. The lodge is also pet-friendly which is great news to those who can’t leave their pooches for too long!

 

5f314922-e39e-4274-8117-474b3de9cfcf.jpg

 

Needless to say a night in the lodge is enough to delight anyone needing an escape but in case you want to wander outside or visit for the day, here are a few tips for those new to Glaslough.

 

Where to Eat

The village is tiny so outside of the castle there is little on offer. Within the Castle there are two places to stuff your face depending on how fancy you want the food to be. Snaffler’s the more upscale restaurant and is also where you eat your breakfast if you’re staying in the lodge. We didn’t eat dinner here but I have to say the breakfast selection was really impressive – make sure to grab the granola pots early!

 

img_2947.jpg

 

Connor’s Bar is on the ground floor and although it’s a little more low-key, the food is still incredibly yummy as the ingredients are locally sourced as they are for Snaffler’s. My sister and I took my Mum, aunt and cousin to Connor’s for Mother’s Day recently and my salad was so tasty that I found myself finishing way before everyone else! You can expect a lot more than just pub grub with the price not being too bad either.

 

6b687e23-a1e4-4e46-b0e1-f075d40faaf2.jpg

 

Although both of the above are great choices, my recommendation would be to dander out of the castle gates and down Barrack Hill to your right. Here you will find Ambledown Cottage which is just about the sweetest place to eat dinner. The cottage is adorned with flowers and old trinkets so I was in love at first sight before even trying the food. Inside there is an open fire and conservatory to eat in but it’s the back of the cottage that had me giddy with excitement. They have transformed the area in to a dream of fairy lights and candles with tables distributed in different outhouses making it just about the most romantic place in town.

 

7abd2a95-865b-4cfb-874e-19d341ffee4c.jpg

 

7449da2e-f73a-4447-b099-de04121c2a69.jpg

 

b3232870-b05f-4ac1-857e-f8eab6da6a64.jpg

 

The menu at Ambledown is confined to mostly pizza but man are they scrumptious. I find it difficult to finish pizza on my own but I had zero problems that night! I also liked the fact that it was BYO which allowed us to totter back to our room and finish the bottle in our dressing gowns 🙂

 

Where to Drink

There are only two pubs in town and even on a Friday night they are very quiet. It didn’t bother Shannon and I since we were there to relax but in case you’re up for a party, you might be a bit disappointed. That said, the Coachouse Bar does have live music on a Saturday so it might be a bit busier then! It’s definitely busy on a sunny afternoon with the benches outside filling up fairly fast. Inside it’s like entering an old house with lots of wee rooms to while a few hours over some pints.

 

9c804eb5-32d1-4cce-b6dc-e0cf07c3a801.jpg

 

ea2b2f3a-4ef3-4250-a2f4-1c20927f7d0a.jpg

 

The Pillar House Hotel is the second pub in the village and another place to enjoy a beer or two. I’ve been told it has a pool room if you fancied killing time on a rainy day or or doing a crawl of the two pubs in town!

 

What to Do

Cookery school – Castle Leslie has its own cookery school which offers one day or two day courses for up to 12 people. This would be a great idea to enjoy as a package when staying at the Castle, I can only imagine how amazing the ingredients would be!

 

Horse riding – there is a well-equipped equestrian centre by the hunting lodge with a trail that takes you across the entire estate. The horses are beautiful, we even got to meet a few after our spa treatments.

 

72493ad2-16f0-4279-a1e3-e1e10be53c94.jpg

 

37f9c4f6-3cc6-4aee-8a1e-69fdb47bf0a0.jpg

 

Spa – speaking of spa, the Victorian treatment rooms were the perfect place to start our day. We both got facials which left our skin feeling like a newborns and then relaxed in the hot tub with blue skies above us.

 

f248cba1-ddad-43d7-a836-b2b90e11f08a.jpg

 

Walking – there are many walks and trails around the Castle Leslie and there’s even an app that you can download to listen to while on your ramble.

 

db7d6a53-0ce9-443c-bf6c-be25e81936da.jpg

 

Antiques & Crafts – there is an antiques shop in town to discover some preloved gems as well as an art gallery to wander through.

 

c7f74458-ef03-4642-bd35-0e59580c146c.jpg

 

Despite being such a small town, Glaslough has so much to offer anyone in need of an escape not far from home. It’s a village that packs in so much character without sacrificing it’s charm and will be forever my favourite village.

 

Do you have a favourite village in Ireland? Are there any places you feel are under-appreciated? Please share!!

 

c12713f1-f78e-453d-a108-059eac5680f5.jpg

 

What Not To Worry About #25

What Not To Worry About #25

I missed doing this post last week. It’s a post I look forward to writing because it’s the only time I allow myself to focus on the little things that I needlessly stress about and ask myself why I even give them the time of day. It’s easy to lose perspective when there are a million worries running through my brain:

Is it someone’s birthday soon?

Do we have enough milk for tea tonight?

Did I defrost the chicken?

When is my tax up on the car?

Is she annoyed at me for that thing I said?

Why do I get spots in my late twenties?

Am I making a difference?

Do I like where I am?

 

This madness can consume me if I allow it to but I think just being aware of my thoughts is one step closer to getting better control over them. Yes there are always going to be things to remember and yes I will have a random memory about one time when I was hammered in 2009 that will torment for the rest of my days BUT I can acknowledge the thought and then move on. I am usually a fairly laid back person but when one area of my life is suffering then the small things seem to become larger and more overwhelming.

 

7ff4706a-1143-4954-8875-5c3d93e108b0.jpg

 

The best thing for me to do in these cases is to remove myself from the chaos and find somewhere quiet to just be for a moment. I have spoken before about the importance of prioritising these moments of solitude because it’s my way of regaining a bit more stability and understanding that it’s all going to be OK. When things are going rough we can have a tendency to focus on the present and lack the foresight needed to understand that it’s not permanent. Instead of spending time worrying about things that are out of our control, wouldn’t it be much better to acknowledge them for a second and then brush them off? Wouldn’t be much better to give ourselves a break and a moment to appreciate all that we do? Yes, I think so too.

 

img_2982.jpg

All photos by the lovely Rebecca of A Clothes Horse

And with that in mind, here are a few of the worries I am letting go of this week.

 

Not having a dog

This is a fact that makes me sad sometimes but not having a dog also means that I don’t have to sit in work feeling guilty all day knowing that my wee furball is lonely. Also means that I don’t have to be dragged about in the rain to walk off energy. Still can’t wait though.

Always forgetting my bag for life

I feel like the worst environmentalist in the world when I pull up to the shop and realise that all of my bag-for-life-bags are in that wee hole in the kitchen where we stuff them all. I curse myself every time and buy another one to add to the collection.

Cop cars

Why do I feel like an instant criminal as soon as I see a cop car? I haven’t done a thing wrong but all of a sudden I have an urge to escape from them at the earliest chance. Creeps.

My love of bread

With the bikini season well and truly here I have given up on the idea of washboard abs and will not be saying goodbye to the carb-filled joy of my heart. Bring on the baguettes.

People who play it safe

You know those people who pull a ridiculous face when you suggest doing something out of the ordinary? Like when someone asks what you’re doing for the weekend and you say that you might go camping which induces a look of pure horror. “Sure it gives it to rain for a half an hour on Saturday!! Are ye mad? Oh no, you wouldn’t catch me at that now. Oh no, sure ye’d be drenched in thon rain! No, I will be sitting up in the house there and staying put so I will”. Arrgghh!!

 

And that’s it for this week! Anything you are choosing to let go of???

My Summer Soundtrack

My Summer Soundtrack

It’s funny how the music we listen to changes with the seasons. In the winter I find myself listening to slow folk and acoustic songs that make me feel cosy on the inside. But in the summer it’s all about dance, soul and R&B. The kind of music that has me moonwalking my way to the back garden with a cold beer in my hand despite the fact that it’s a rainy Monday evening.

 

When we were growing up my Mum would play music in the kitchen in the evenings especially in the summer when the back door would be thrown open and the music would filter in to the garden. She had a big influence on my taste in music and introduced me to artists I’m still in love with today; Prince, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, KC & the Sunshine Band. We listened to songs that taught us how to move and that allowed us to lose ourselves in the rhythm. Songs that taught us soul and about things we were too young to understand (singing along to Prince lyrics as an eight year old is a little disturbing looking back).

 

I thought I might share a few of my favourites that have become my summer anthems over the years. These are the tunes that I play loudly after a shitty day at work and are guaranteed to lift me up and remind me that it’s summer and there is no call for being sad. They are the summeriest of summer songs and you have my total permission to use them for your own summer soundtrack. I recommend being barefoot and having all the windows open. Just don’t blame me if the neighbours get at ya!!

 

img_2970.jpg


Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Say what you will about MJ but this song is a classic disco tune that will have you moonwalking your slippers.

Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere

Ugh, Fleetwood Mac and their friggin’ melodies get me everytime.

Van Morrisson – Into The Mystic

“Smell the sea and feel the sky; let your soul and spirit fly in to the mystic”. Lyrics that floored me as a teenager.

Beyoncé – Crazy in Love

Because you can’t have a summer party without Queen B.

Bob Marley – Three Little Birds

This song reminds me of a trip I took around SE Asia with two of my best friends. We got matching tattoos of three birds on our ribcage and every time this song comes on we have a knowing look between the three of us.

10cc – Dreadlock Holiday

The second this song is on I slow down and smile.

Toto – Africa

I love trying to sing along to this song, especially in my car when I know I terrify all other drivers.

Prince – Raspberry Beret

Probably his least filthy song so you can play it a family party.

Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up

Makes me want to have a glamorous poolside party in California.

Will Smith – Miami

Cheesy but so so good!!

Cornershop – Brimful of Asha (Norman Cook Remix)

An oldie but a goodie.

Len – Steal my Sunshine

Despite this being played on every day the sun shines in Ireland I still love it.

U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

The guitars, the drums, the vocals. An Irish classic.

Angus & Julia Stone – Mango Tree

Brings the tempo down for sure but this brother/sister duo melts my summer hear.

LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing In My House

To be played loudly preferably with some couch dancing.

The Clash – Rock the Casbah

This was my ringtone in Uni I loved it that much.

The Knack – My Sharona

I defy you not to dance to this song!!

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes – 40 Day Dream

The happiest of summer songs that has me stamping my little hooves with sheer glee.

All Saints – Pure Shores

No one can do 90’s beach chic like All Saints

Jurassic 5 – Work It Out

This is my summer bath tune. Yes that is a thing.

Fatboy Slim – Praise You

A song that will never go out of style. Never.

 

a43f1a82-5141-4f2b-81b3-1a6af4ee3944.jpg

How to Revive Tired Skin for Summer

How to Revive Tired Skin for Summer

Summer in Ireland can be very deceptive. Just when you think you are safe to dry clothes outside or plan a weekend in the outdoors, the clouds darken and the rain ridicules you for being so smug. As I am writing this I am curled up in our armchair watching the torrents batter the window and the wind is howling. Hello June!!

 

Those little pockets of sunshine may be few here but when the clouds do decide to part, the heat can be a shock to the system. My skin definitely suffers as a result of the ever-changing weather; my skin loses moisture, my lips crack and my forehead does this lovely thing of breaking out in lots of wee spots. To try and combat this I have ramped up the beauty routine (which is pretty non-existent to be fair) and introduced some homemade products using ingredients I know will help soothe my skin and bring it back to life.

 

I have written about my love of natural products before, especially when it comes to skincare. And although there are a plethora of organic gems available for not-so-horrifying prices,  there is something to be said for whipping up your own creation with ingredients just hanging out in your cupboards. Good products should only require a handful of ingredients and I have found some great recipes that will surely brighten up any weather-beaten body.

 

2ab99b95-89e6-4da6-8668-f6897c71e120.jpg

 

Lemon & Lavender Sugar Scrub

I use lavender essential oil religiously for lots of homemade recipes like this room spray which I spritz on clothes, curtains, my car, gym bag, bed pillows. Basically anything that I think can delay washing for another few days! The combination with lemon creates the most incredible smell that is so summery – just don’t be tempted to eat the scrub because it doesn’t taste as good as it smells!

 

The scrub contains coconut oils which will inject some much needed moisture in to that tired skin. I make a batch and keep it next to the bath for those days when a good soak is the only cure for a hectic day. If you want to feel like a proper princess then add a few drops of lavender oil to the bath while you’re there and put on your favourite podcast – heaven!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 15 drops essential oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lavender buds (optional)

Method

  • Melt coconut oil at high temperature in microwave
  • Add sugar, lavender oil and lavender buds
  • Place in pot and enjoy!

 

7e491db7-cc42-4936-bae7-da6a4c554a3a.jpg

 

Lip Scrub

Those little peckers can get a rough time between seasons with the summer making them especially vulnerable. Use this scrub to remove the dead skin and the coconut oil will give them that wee bit of nourishment that they are craving. Follow up with this lip balm and you will feel instantly renewed (and no longer resemble a scabies victim.. Just me?).

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 5 drops vanilla extract

Method

  • Heat coconut in microwave and then mix in the rest of the ingredients
  • Add to small lip pots

 

Green Tea Face Mist

Making your own face mist may just be the most decadent thing you do but my goodness is it refreshing. This mist is best left in the fridge and then spritzed on a make-up free face on a hot evening. It’s also a life saver when travelling on a plane to help awaken tired skin.

The green tea acts as a natural soother and is packed full of those infamous antioxidants that will give your face that summer glow (and not the sweaty kind). I also add a little Vitamin E oil to help soothe and moisturise the skin that bit more.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of green tea
  • 1/2 cup of distilled water
  • 10 drops Vitamin E oil

Method

  • Boil the green tea and leave to stew for an hour
  • Mix the tea with the distilled water and vitamin E oil
  • Add a spray bottle and give a good shake
  • Leave in the fridge

61061f38-35d8-4cda-a8d4-13535f2e2605.jpg

What Not To Worry About #24

What Not To Worry About #24

Morning all! My weekly post is a little late this week. I think the long weekend tricked me in to thinking I was on holidays for a wee second and now I feel like I’m still catching up! I hope you enjoyed the extra bit of weekend even though we had a major rainfest here. Not to worry though – I got treated to lunch by my Granny and dinner by my Dad so no room to complain! Diet schmiet!

 

Although the rain was a little deflating, it was comforting to spend some time with family after a pretty horrendous week. With more attacks in the UK, Syria, Afghanistan and the Philippines (to name a few), it seems that we are inundated with horrific images from the media on a daily basis. Although atrocities closer to home can ignite a stronger sense of shock across our society, it should not be ignored that ceaseless attacks by all sides are occurring globally and children are too often the victims of the crossfire. It’s a scary time. We don’t feel safe with the politicians we have on offer, the environment is in peril (with Trump on the brink of pulling the US out of the Paris climate deal as I write this) and Justin Bieber is showing no signs of fecking off.

 

In these moments it’s entirely natural to want to crawl under the covers, hug our knees to our chest and wonder what the point of it all is. Until we choose to look up again and be reminded of just how lovely this Earth can be. Like when we see on the news of how the homeless men went to the aid of the injured during the attacks in Manchester. Or when your Granny sends you a letter in the post. Or a conversation with a stranger that completely blind sides you so much that you smile like an eejit for the next hour. Or when your loved one drives you to pretty gardens just so you can take some photos (even though they having a stinking hangover).

 

There is so much kindness in this world. Kindness that obliterates the bad and the evil. And almost all of us have this capacity for joy so it’s more important than ever to emit it out in the world and let it touch all those around you. Make it a priority in your life because you will surely feel a little better about getting up in the mornings just knowing that you alone can create your own happiness.

 

And with that in mind, here’s a few things I am not going to worry about this week…

 

The new £1 coin

Where can I use it? Will vending machines swallow it up? Can I pay my parking with it?? Too many worries for one coin.

Slow Cashiers

I used to work a till so I understand that it ain’t the most fun job but for the love of Jaysus could you put the crap in the bag a little faster please? I have one item in my hand and I’m watching the two of yas jabbering on about the weather, “Sure isn’t it great to see”, ” Ach it is aye”, “Did you see the rain though?” “Ach I did surely, it was a complete washout. Sure I left me washin’ out on the line and everything! Had to wash it all over again!!” OMGGGGGGGG.

Children With No Manners

Not to sound like Granny Nora here but this really gripes me. We had a big group of kids visit our offices during the week and I was helping them out on team building exercises which was like trying to control a bunch of banana-crazed monkeys. When I asked the kids to help clean up afterwards, this one fella (about 10 I’d say) just paraded up to the to empty egg carton and booted it across the room and continued to boot everything else he came in to contact with. I didn’t tell him off (his teachers were next to him and didn’t bat an eyelid) but I gave him a quare look that stopped him in his tracks. It was at this moment that I realised I was truly an adult.

‘Strong and stable’ Puns

Enough with the Theresa May jokes – PLEASE! If I hear one more person refer to something as ‘strong and stable’ in a meeting I’m going to feckin’ scream!

Brawling Cats

Now that we’re in the summer and are subjected to the humidity of Louisiana, we have started sleeping with the window open. But this now means that we can hear the neighbourhood cats going mental at all hours. It’s like a mixture of a banshee wailing and a baby wailing which is probably the scariest wailing combination ever. A sound sleep this does not make.

 

And on that note, have a delightful week! xx

My Irish Summer Bucket List

My Irish Summer Bucket List

I think most of us have a romanticised view of the summers of our childhood. The days were always warmer, longer and filled with adventure from the moment we woke up. The days stretched out before us in a haze of languid afternoons spent hiding amongst the fields, chasing the sun as it refused to go down. Being sent to bed was the worst punishment as the stubborn daylight continued to haunt us as we lay yearning to be amongst the laughter we could still hear outside.

 

As adults, the punishment now isn’t being sent to bed. It’s being sent to an office where we are forced to stay in and attempt to work while the stubborn daylight haunts us all over again. We are jailed by social responsibilities but are set free for the weekend and in order to make the most of the precious hours, we must think of as many fun things to do to save us from the guilt on a Sunday evening.

 

503b8282-1979-415b-be75-6604a0a12cb8.jpg

 

Irish people can be a cynical bunch and many smirk at the mention of summer since the weather here is as reliable as our government. That sense of adventure has waned with age but Ireland has so much to offer and we can relive those childhood days, even if it’s just for the weekend.

 

I’ve rounded up a few things I want to tick off this summer in the hope that it might allow me to feel excited about the weekends and less flustered about feeling the need to fill every hour. Having these wee goals helps me look forward to the weekend and appreciate just how much this island has to offer – even when the rain tries to dampen my spirits!

 

7fe25394-1cea-4e02-8b97-d9cfb0eb72b7.jpg

 

Go to a GAA Match

I’m an Armagh woman and the county football team was at it’s peak when I was a teenager. This meant that a lot of Sundays in the summer were spent on the side of a pitch, wearing the immutable orange jersey while screaming “Go wan Armagh!!” about a million times. I haven’t been to a game in forever and I miss the buzz of the crowd, the embarrassing insults the poor ref always endured and the terrible homemade sandwiches that were snacked on. This year I’ll make sure to don the jersey again and who knows, maybe Armagh might be within a chance of winning the Sam again.

Sleep Under the Stars

Falling asleep listening to the lullabies of leaves rustling or waves crashing might just be the tonic of the summer. I am a keen camper but I don’t make it enough of a priority to just pack up the car and get away for a night. But a night under the stars is always worth the hassle – even just for the melted marshmallows alone.

Run 5km

Running seems to be the trendy thing to do these days and for that reason I am severely unfashionable. I am not a runner and even though I have a good excuse not to be (the old CF lungs are easy to blame), I still really want to be able to run a decent distance. I have an aim to be able to run 5km in one session by the end of the summer so the practice will be starting this week. Just don’t expect me to to talk while I’m running – those freaks can stay well away from me.

Solo Picnic

I love a good picnic and Andrew and I will find time for one on weekends that will allow us to eat outside without being frozen. But this summer I want to take advantage of a little time to myself. Time to chill out, read a book or just listen to my own thoughts bumbling inside my noggin.

Island Hop

Although we live on on an island, there are still lots of little satellite islands that adorn our lovely coast and so I want to explore a few of them this summer. Last summer we visited Rathlin Island which was a blast and my first time seeing puffins up close (ish). This year I hope to visit an island or two off the west coast and get a good dose of that Atlantic air in to my lungs.

Surf

I learned to surf while living in Australia but only really stood up a few times. My lovely Aussie friends bought me a foam board as a birthday present and it has been shamefully lying in our box room gathering dust and no doubt feeling very depressed. This year the board will get wet and I will brace the ice-cold water that will surely have me wanting to dart back to dry land in an instant. I will be brave and I will try and stand up again even for just a second.

Attend the Fleadh

The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is an annual music festival that displays the best of Irish traditional music. I’ve never been but every year I promise myself that I will go. This year is no different but I hope to actual make it this time!

See a Play

I live in Belfast but it’s embarrassing how little I appreciate living in a city with a thriving culture scene. There are plays and musicals every week to take advantage of and so I will be sure to get my thespian head on this summer!

Host an Outdoor Cinema

We have a projector that has been lying lonely alongside my dusty surfboard which will be of much better use when hosting our own backyard cinema. I hope to string up on an old bed sheet, throw a load of cushions on the grass and gather some good mates for an old classic or two. Let’s just hope the weather plays ball!!

 

If I manage to get even half of these ticked off then I feel like I’m in for a fun summer!

Have you your own summer bucketlist? Is there anything you’re hoping to tick off this summer?? 

 

 

What Not To Worry About #23

What Not To Worry About #23

Hello all! The North is expecting a heatwave later in the week and I am already looking forward to the following:

  • Pasty folk comparing their sunburn
  • Supermarkets selling out of disposable BBQs and aftersun
  • Seeing evidence of water fights on the neighbourhood streets
  • Constant media updates on the current temperature
  • Having the window open at night to feel the breeze coming in

 

While I will be gasping in the office this week, I’ll also be planning a weekend filled with activities so I can make the most of every sun-filled moment. The weekends have been fairly quiet recently and it isn’t until Sunday evening, faced with the horrors of the Monday ahead of me, that I realise that I’ve been slacking.

 

Last weekend was especially quiet with the highlight being a morning spent researching for this post followed by an afternoon skiddling with my camera. It was one of those days where the rain kept threatening to pour which made it very easy to seek refuge inside and do a spot of pottering. Now that the evenings are well and truly stretching, we hadn’t realised the time until it was 7pm and we’d barely moved all day! We decided to take ourselves home to Armagh for the night to catch up with family so we felt like we’d accomplished something with our day. No complaints though since we were fed pretty much constantly!

 

I suppose there is nothing wrong with a weekend spent indoors but with the Irish summer lasting all of about a minute, it’s best to savour the dry bits to prevent some bitter regret on a cold October evening. With that in mind I’m thinking of making an Irish-specific summer bucket list so keep your eyes peeled for that later this week!

 

In the meantime, here is my weekly roundup of the little irks and quirks that I am choosing to let go of this week…

 

Spiders

I mentioned in this post how the influx of flies has been an unwelcome sign of the summer but now the spiders have decided to seek refuge in every room of the house. I can’t bring myself to kill them so I’ll try and pretend they’re not here until they move and then I’m on the other side of the room.

Ice Cream Van Music

Why does it have to be so creepy?? I swear they’ve been playing the same melancholy song since the Victorian era.

The Sound of Nails Being Clipped

A fella in work was clipping his nails beside me in work today and I nearly heaved on to my desk. Keep the personal grooming at home please!!

Baby on Board Stickers

The most passive aggressive behaviour on the roads. It’s not like people would be ramming in to the back of you if you didn’t have that sign on the back of the car! If anything it probably incites more anger so please for the love of feck take them down along with them stupid family cartoons.

Hayfever

Ah yes, ’tis the season of a million sneezes a day and constant itchy eyes. I’ll be knee dip in Piriton until November now.

 

Have a great week folks!!

 

img_1919.jpg

 

 

My 5 Favourite Belfast Bookstores

My 5 Favourite Belfast Bookstores

As I push open the door, I am transported back to my great Aunt’s house in Antrim. I’m leafing through pages, browned from years of use and neglect, wondering who had held them before me and where they had been. But it’s the smell that evokes the most memory. The smell of adventures, laughs, tears and lives lived. The smell of dusty corners and forgotten words. For me, entering a bookshop is akin to the devout entering their place of worship.; this is where I come to kneel.

 

a880ebf2-5c28-482c-ba9e-a52d1dcfc265.jpg

 

In a society where there is so much uncertainty, exploring a bookshop can provide us with the solace that we are robbed of in the outside world. In here we can gain anonymity and lose ourselves in someone else’s story. When I read the first few pages of a book I wouldn’t have discovered while browsing Amazon, I disappear in the aisle I’m standing in. I can’t hear anything but the words of someone who poured their heart and soul in to the pages I am holding in my hands.

 

33a0060f-b4cf-4e60-ab52-63c30c5cdee8.jpg

 

Being relatively new to Belfast meant that I had to go forth and discover places to while away a rainy afternoon and I was delighted to discover that there were plenty of literary caves to disappear in. Researching for this post also introduced me to a few more places that weren’t on my radar before and I feel like I’ve been welcomed in to a new clan. Because it’s not just about the shop, the smells and the books. It’s also about the people who inhabit them, who strive to keep the place alive and reignite that flame that may be lying dormant in the online traitors amongst us. For these people have stories of their own that are worth listening too just as much as the books that surround them.

 

1e63b7d5-d908-436f-b6ef-8324a7eecbff.jpg

 

With the Belfast Book Festival approaching (7th – 17th June) I thought I might share a few of the bookshops and the community of bibliophiles I have joined since I moved here. And it is a community worth joining since this wee island has spawned the world’s greatest scholars, bards, poets and legends. I feel like I am in good company.

 

No Alibis

Located in Botanic Avenue, No Alibis is an established institution in Belfast, most renowned for their savage collection of crime fiction novels. Dave, the owner, is something of an institution himself as he supports and engages a whole community of literary lovers in the area. He hosts a wealth of events; book readings, poetry readings and caters to the future Heaney’s of Ireland through Saturday morning kids readings.

 

e5e8ee37-2b36-4535-9822-e6c95f14bc21.jpg

You wouldn’t miss the front of No Alibis

7d6d3af4-0b6c-419a-aca7-0662c86b613c.jpg

Some of their beautiful displays

On my last visit I found a signed copy of a collection of work by Paul Durcan (for £16 quid!!!) as well as my favourite local magazine, Freckle. Noticing my purchases Dave casually informed me that a local favourite, Sinead Morrissey, was reading her poetry up in Queens that evening and that I should take myself along. I could barely contain my glee that I had met this man!

 

093c9f9e-82fa-49aa-9428-8e5f47a48f9a.jpg

Making trees happy

As I was about to leave Dave asked me what genre I was in to – a question that induces a cloud of panic to come down over me because I never quite know the best/right response. Watching my eyes glaze over, he handed me a first proof copy of an historical fantasy he thought I might enjoy. I asked if it was anything like ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’ – a beast of a book which took me months to finish but adored completely. His eyes lit up and answered, “Spot on – it’s serendipity, you have to take it!!”. And what he meant was for free. No charge. For a first proof! I stumbled out of his shop with my books, in a lovely cotton bag which was also a freebie, giddy with excitement that I might have just joined a community I had been yearning to be a part of for quite some time.

 

Keats & Chapman

What struck me the most when I walked in to this joint on North Street was the depth of the place. Keats & Chapman looks quite pokey from the street but the shop carries on down a long and book-crammed corridor right to the most niche genres. You could easily spend a day in here if you had the time and the owner Bill is well aware of that since he has placed a few random chairs in quiet sections so no customer feels rushed.

 

0afb6539-e8d2-463b-a0da-4b26e6d368e0.jpg

The shopfront of Keats & Chapman

a9e3216b-fba1-4ce5-85fc-bd0f415a71e6.jpg

And on and on it goes

The second hand books here are very well priced (usually around £2) but with such a selection you will no doubt come out spending more than you had planned. My personal favourites were the amazing collection of old Irish wildlife guides, such an Instragrammers dream! Although be warned – there is no card machine so you will have to stick to traditional cash to pay for the armful of books you decide to take home.

 

9608bb99-3e49-404a-80b3-5a0754166b05.jpg

Books from floor to ceiling

fd5f4f0f-fea6-4fdc-b9eb-9109e0be729c.jpg

A favourite guide!

Belfast Books

John of Belfast Books is a man whose passion for literacy and community is contagious. Born and bred in North Belfast, he decided to open a bookshop on his home turf as a way to engage the local community and to bring some footfall to the streets he grew up in. North Belfast is an area of the city that has been neglected in the past but it’s locals like John that keep the spirit of the place alive and there is no better way to strike up a conversation than over a decent book.

 

2sduprig

The shelves of Belfast Books

John runs his law firm from the top floor of the three storey building and the bottom two floors are dedicated to the housing the thousands of books they have constantly streaming in. The shop is a sight to behold and steps need to be taken carefully as to avoid the tower of classics as you come through the door. To a customer this would be seen as charming but John explained how desperate they are for volunteers to step in and help catalogue the high volume they are struggling to cope with.

 

e17318c2-ec91-40a9-bdcf-af0ee70f5055.jpg

“Cheaper than that South American river”

1c094e09-5600-4bfa-980d-0d42defe6d6f.jpg

Peter, a loyal customer with a love for World War aircraft books, stops by the shop for a coffee and a chat

And there really is something for everyone in Belfast Books. The shop is mostly known for it’s huge collection of books on the Troubles (hello tourist trap) but there is pretty much everything you can think of; ancient history, ecology, classics, sci-fi and horror (the latter being hidden in the back of the first floor like a dirty secret) which you can all buy using your trusty Belfast Books loyalty card. If that wasn’t enough, John also helps host creative writing workshops, hosts a wicked Twitter account, provides book reviews and is working with the community to start a farmer’s market in a nearby warehouse. North Belfast won’t be short of footfall for much longer!

 

1f1816da-ad23-4c49-a127-61bdcb8ce776.jpg

 

The Bookfinders

The outside of this popular student hole in the wall may not look too appealing but inside lies a gem that is infamous among the students of Belfast. You’ll find the overgrown shopfront of Bookfinders just a stone’s throw from Queen’s University which boasts a surprising collection of second hand books as well as a wee café down the back.

 

b9910724-85ec-496b-9c9b-8222e875b483.jpg

 

50999ec8-398a-4e55-9f13-a754e17a6b83.jpg

Worth the hoke if you have the time! 

The shop itself is a bit through-other but if you have the patience and time to have a hoke then you won’t come up disappointed. It’s worth all the energy spent for a slice of cake and a big mug of tea to enjoy your new purchase – and try and squeeze in amongst the students draining the place of their Wifi!

 

Waterstones

I know, Waterstones is a dirty chain and shouldn’t be included in list of esteemed independent bookshops but I can’t ignore how much of an impact this shop made on me. I still remember visiting the Dublin store as a child and being completely overwhelmed with how beautiful it was to see so many books in one shop – on multiple floors!

 

1ce26d32-ea3a-43c7-8791-f06d6e55d558.jpg

 

The Belfast branch is just as lovely today and I like to go for a wander on an afternoon when I want a few hours to myself. I might not be quite as likely to pick up a bargain like in the other shops (or be able to stay for a half a day cross-legged on the floor) but I am still as inspired by the beauty of so many books as I was as an eight year old.

 

20a68372-9bff-4f8a-bd7e-499dfd174522.jpg

 

Happy reading!

What Not To Worry About #22

What Not To Worry About #22

Happy Monday folks! So that’s the summer over eh? I woke up to the sound of rain this morning and I have to admit it was a little bit nice. Of course I’ll be wishing the sun back in a day or two but waking to the sound of rain pattering against the window isn’t a bad way to start the day and the week. Until I stepped outside to make a mad dash for the car, cursing myself that I always leave the umbrella in the feckin’ car.

 

Last weekend was a busy one, spent ceilidhing with friends and family as I performed my fortnightly whip-around Armagh. Although I’ve lived in Belfast for a few years now, most of my family and friends are still down in Armagh so I make the trek down the M1 as much as I can to avoid becoming known as the city snob – country folk can be cruel! It’s always a jammed weekend filled with countless cups of tea and biscuits but after living abroad for years I love being a short drive away from the folk that make my heart happy.

 

img_1884.jpg

 

I spoke in my last Instagram post about the concept of home and how transient the idea feels to me. As a child (is it weird to call yourself a child when you’re 28??) of parents who are no longer together and with no childhood home to return to, I often mourned the ‘home’ that I once knew. I used to feel a pang of jealousy when seeing friends return home for the holidays to the house they grew up in but why did I yearn for convention so much?

 

I decided that home doesn’t have to be built of bricks and mortar but can be found in relationships, experiences or even memories. Over the years I have created many homes for myself; in the student halls of Edinburgh living off potatoes and not much else,  in a hostel with my two best friends as we hilariously attempted to travel South East Asia, in the red dirt of Western Australia and in the ocean alongside it, on my sister’s couch watching trashy TV while we take turns cuddling her dog, playing Scrabble with Andrew in front of the fire on a winter’s night. And even after moving on I still left a part of myself in these places, with the people I chose as my family while I was there.

 

img_1868.jpg

 

And here I am, back within arm’s reach of the town I grew up in, frolicking in the orchards of my childhood (and getting pictures taken by photographer extraordinaire Rebecca) surrounded by the people I grew up with. This might be my home again for another while but just like the apple blossom that appears and disappears in a whisper, this too could be temporary. And that’s OK because a piece of me will always be here.

 

Here are a few more things I am choosing not to worry about this week…

 

Have a great week!

 

Crap Clothes Pegs

You know you’re getting old when you a sunny day delights you mostly because you can dry your clothes outside again. But why are clothes pegs the flimsiest things on the planet? I feel like Thor when they break at my very touch and then I have to fumble for another while I’m trying to keep the bedsheet up with one hand. You’d swear I was a Victorian housewife!

 

Junk Mail

I had an Avon rep come to my door to collect a catalogue she had dropped off and I had to confess that I’d thrown it in the recycling bin like an insolent child. She looked so hurt and I felt so ashamed that I’d thrown it out when I hadn’t even asked for it! This is why junk mail is the worst.

 

Duvets

We’re getting in to the warm nights where duvets become smothering devices and I have to hang one half of my body out of the bed to regulate my body temperature. It’s still too cold for just sheets so we have to live in this limbo until one of us chucks the duvet out the window in a sweaty hissy fit. I can’t wait for that.

 

Movie Nights

Andrew and I will settle ourselves in for a movie night once a week which I naively look forward to every time until I realise it takes us half a day to decide what to watch. We have bajillions of movies on the server waiting to be watched but we can never seem to pick one and furiously Google ‘best movies of all time’ for hours until we’re too tired to even watch anything. Couple joys!

 

Snooker

Who in their right mind can settle themselves in to watch that tripe on TV? Do you have to be male and over 45? It has got to be the most sinfully boring thing on this planet. In my own opinion of course.

 

img_1871.jpg